We just had a tour of RIt (Rochester Institute of Technology). Our tour guide majored in New Media Design, which is what my daughter is interested in.
After reading a number of negative comments in Studentreviews.com and finding out that they have some of the lowest 6 year retention rates in the nation ( under 60% graduate within 6 years), I wanted to check out the school for myself.
1. Academics: As one professor noted, RIT is aiming to be the next Carnegie Mellon within 10-20 years. I can definitely see the similarities. RIT has seven schools and an institute for the deaf. They are:
CAST - Applied Science & Technology
CCIS - Computing & Information Sciences
CIAS - Imaging Arts & Sciences ( design, photography, printing, and immaging science studies)
CLA - Liberal Arts
COB - Business
COE - Engineering
COS - Science
NTID - Nat'l Technical Institute for the Deaf
There are a lot of deaf students on campus taking courses.
Average SATs are 1210, math 620 and verbal 590. I suspected that if you major in science and engineering, you would need a higher math score. I met a few engineering and computer science kids whose average math SAT were around 650-670. These interviews may not be statistically valid.
Overall, RIT academics is very underrated and underappreciated. They have some top professors. US News and World Reports gave them a 4.1 out of 5.0 in peer reviews. CMU has a 4.3 by the way. Student teacher ratio is around 13:1. This should be contrasted to that of CMU with a 9:1 student teacher ratio.
The school works their kids like dogs. In this way, it is similar to CMU. Make no mistake, these kids are expected to work hard and at a high level. However, that is part of the problem. The students are not quite up to the level ( at least on paper) as their CMU counterparts.
Most students that I met came to RIT because they didn't get admitted to MIT, CMU, Cornell or were give great scholarship money or they lived in the area and didn't want to attend school far away. This is not to say that the student body isn't smart. However, they are a few notches under what is found in the top schools at least in engineering and science.
I should note that design students are very top notch. There is a large number of applications for a relatively small number of spots, making their school of immaging sciences very tough to get into.
RIT also has some interesting majors that you won't find elsewhere such as printing, photographic sciences,New Media Design, New Media Printing etc. They are very tied in to Bausch and Lomb; thus, anything to do with photography is especially strong.
RIT also has a very strong co-op program where you get real world experience and get well paid for this work. Supposedly one-third of the students who particpate in co-op get full-time job offers. This is one factor that clearly distinguishes RIT from other institutions.
AP polciy is also very liberal. Generally, if you get a "3" or more on an exam, you get credit. I don't know if they limit the total number of courses that they will accept AP credit. This should be compared to schools like CMU that requires 4's and 5's for many exams.
There are few doctoral programs offered. Thus, most professors are NOT TAs. 80% of the faculty have terminal degrees ( compared to that of CMU that has 96% with terminal degrees).
Although the work is very hard, I didn't get the impression that it was of the same high level of CMU. I could be wrong on this though. I also didn't see the same amount of interdiciplinary type of work that goes on at CMU.
Like CMU, RIT is very wired. There are a huge number of computer labs and wireless spots available on campus.
I should note that one big distinction is that RIT does NOT have a drama department.
Overall adademically I would give them a B+
2. Campus: The campus is huge. It is much bigger than that of CMU ( and they have double the students too). I thought it was pretty. However, almost every building consists of red brick, and I do mean almost every building. They don't believe in diversity of architecture. However, there are nice big green grassy area for the kids to play sports and sit and study ( when the weather allows, which is rare).
They also have tunnels that go from the dorms to various buildings, which was very interestingly planned. Moreover, they have a new building that houses a great indoor running track, new workout facilities and swimming pool.
I should note that the maintenance on the facilites was immaculate. There was no garbage, graffiti, or dirt found anywhere. They must have little gremlins cleaning up at night. The bathrooms were also nice and clean; however, I missed the little scented devices that I found at CMU.
There has been a number of complaints that there just isn't anything to do in RIT other than study. RIT is taking this complaint seriously and is working on building a town for students which will consist of shopping, restaurants, fun area etc. This should be very exciting when finished, if it is ever finished.
Overall, I would currewntly give the Campus a C+ to a B-
3.Parking: Although parking is limited as with other schools, it was a lot better than what I found at Drexel and CMU. Since most kids live on Campus, they don't need cars. I would give RIT a "C" to "C+" in parking.
4.Dorms: Sadly, I didn't get to see any dorms due to security. However, based on speaking with students, they are nice, large and get cleaned daily. RIT does have appartments and lots of room for more housing. A number of dorms and new and modern. From what I can ascertain, I would give them a solid "B" in dorms
5. Food: WE at on campus, and all of us liked the food. It was varied and reasonably well cooked. They had a nice salid bar too. Overall, I would give them a "B" in food.
6. Problems: With all these good things, why do they have such dissatisfaction among students and comments. As far as I can tell there are three main problems:
First,is the weather. AS one student noted, "Immagine how cold you think Rochester is and subtract 25 degrees." It is very cold and blustery most of the year. Although, the school is very good at snow removal, this doesn't detract from the blistery cold students experience going to class.
Second, There is no school spirit. At least in Syracuse, there are great sports teams and lots of things to do. Here, sports are limited due to the weather and, since it is so cold, no one wants to leave their dorms.
Third: This may be the clincher: RIT is a very hard school. Students are expected to work hard. Moreover, there is very little outlet for release. For example, the male-female ration is 70%-30%,with most females in the school of design. This means that in most science or engineering classes, it is more like 10:1 (male to female). Thus, social life is not that great. Moreover, RIT is VERY strict as to drinking. They have a complete no drinking policy on campus at any of its facilities, dorms or apartments. Personally, I like this policy,but many students don't.
7. Tuition: Here there is a big surprise. RIT tuition is just under $22,000 per year. Moreover, room and board are also relatively cheap at about $8,000. From a pricing perspective, this school is a deal for a private school.
Overall impressions: This is one of those schools that are hard to define. They have good science and good art and design. Whether it is up to the level of a CMU is hard to evaluate. However, there is clearly a lack of things to do other than work and have LAN parties. RIT is attempting to add more facilities for students' enjoyment. Thus, if you want very good academics, great co-op experience at a very good price, this may well be the school for your kids. I really do believe that they will get better and might well acheive the goal espoused by a professor: equal in quality that of CMU! Frankly, I didn't feel that they were that far away at least academically.
Obviously, my impressions may differ from yours. You should check out the school.